Key insights for success with your West Point application

The Cadet Background and Experiences Form, or CBEF, can be a confusing application requirement for West Point candidates.

What is the purpose of this test?

How is it used?

Does it impact admissions?

Initially introduced for experimental purposes, applicants complete this survey online to provide a deeper understanding of their backgrounds and experiences.

The goal of this survey is to ensure the Army is selecting candidates who will make successful Army officers one day. Looking in from the outside, taking one survey might seem like a poor indication of whether or not a candidate will be successful.

But, there is some data to backup the test’s existence. (Reference the Army ROTC disenrollment chart below).

Additionally, West Point has other means of ensuring an appointment is a good fit (nomination interviews, Field Force Officer interview, etc).

Test Format

You will be given a series of multiple choice questions that you must answer, before submitting the test. There’s an example question below.

Why the CBEF Matters

Highlighting the importance of the CBEF, Major General Peggy Combs, former Commanding General of Army ROTC, has identified it as a pivotal measure for forecasting success in Army ROTC.

Its proven effectiveness within the ROTC has paved the way for its adoption by West Point.

The Challenge Army ROTC Faced

A significant hurdle for Army ROTC was predicting which scholarship recipients would see their programs through to completion. Despite offering scholarships to deserving high school seniors and college students, a pattern emerged: a higher rate of dropout among four-year scholarship awardees from high school.

Development of the CBEF

In an effort to find out how to decrease disenrollment rates, a collaborative effort between the U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences and the Human Resources Research Organization led to the development of the CBEF.

The CBEF survey includes two different scales within it:

  • The Rational Biodata Inventory (RBI) scale and the
  • The Propensity for Commitment (PFC) scales

These two scales’ goal is to predict a candidate’s success in completing their ROTC obligations.

Since the mission of West Point and Army ROTC are to commission Army officers of characters, it only makes sense that the Army would do everything in its power to ensure they are selecting young men and women who will remain in the Army, at minimum to commission and fulfill their 4-5 year obligation.

Even better if they complete a full career in the Army.

Let’s break down the two scales from the survey.

Rational Biodata Inventory (RBI)

The RBI scales delve into temperament by probing into past behaviors and life experiences. These scales have demonstrated significant predictive validity. For instance:

  • Army Identification
  • Educational Identification
  • Fitness Motivation
  • Self-Efficacy
  • Stress Tolerance
  • Hostility to Authority

These RBI components have been closely linked to cadet retention and commissioning rates. Higher scores in Army and Educational Identification correlate with lower disenrollment, suggesting a strong alignment with Army values and educational commitment enhances ROTC success.

Basically, higher scores mean you are more likely to remain an Army officer longer.

Army ROTC Disenrollment Rates by How Candidates Scored on the CBEF

Note that from the above graph, Army ROTC cadets straight out of high school who scored in the bottom 25% on the CBEF in the RBI had disenrollment rates of 20%, compared to only 6% disenrollment for candidates in the top 25%.

An Example Question from the RBI

To give insight into the type of inquiries RBI entails, consider the following question about procrastination on tasks, taken directly from the study:

  • How often have you put off doing a chore that you could have taken care of right away?
    • A. Very often
    • B. Often
    • C. Sometimes
    • D. Seldom
    • E. Never

This question helps assess traits like responsibility and time management, crucial for military discipline and success.

You’ll see a lot of questions that are phrased in different ways, so make sure you think through the questions carefully and thoughtfully.

Propensity for Commitment

While not as predictive of disenrollment as the RBI scales, the PFC scales adds additional insight. This measure looks more at a candidate’s general tendency towards staying committed to groups or organizations.

Essentially, how loyal do you stay to a team once you’ve made a commitment?

Impact of CBEF

The study’s results underline the CBEF’s potential as a crucial instrument in the ROTC scholarship selection process, identifying candidates more likely to stay in the program and ultimately commission as Army officers. This is the reason behind its adoption by Army ROTC and its use by West Point. For a deeper dive, the study is available for reading.

What does this mean for you?

Answer honestly.

The goal is to ensure a good fit for candidates in the military, and in the Army as a leader. West Point is looking for scholars, athletes, and leaders in future Army officers. Keep this in mind as you take this test.

While it’s easy to think, “what would West Point want me to say”, we recommend you answer honestly on this survey. West Point’s goal is to produce officers of character. Maintain your character throughout all parts of the appointment process.

Want to maximize your potential of earning a West Point appointment?